Almost every question at Doug Pederson’s Monday press conference was about Carson Wentz.
As it should be. The franchise quarterback, who is on a big-money deal, is not playing at a level that’s suitable or sustainable right now, which has resulted in one of the most aggravating Mondays in recent Philadelphia sports history. It’s not ideal to start the week off talking about poor QB play for an 0-2 team.
The first question was rather blunt – why is Wentz showing regression in year number five?
“It’s a good question. For us, it’s a matter of continuing to work. I think as coaches and players, we continue to strive to get better every single day. I just don’t want Carson to feel like he has to make all the plays every single time. I want him to just be Carson and you guys know him, you’ve been around him, you’ve heard him, his demeanor. He wants to do everything right and we’ve given him control to do that, but we just have to continue to work to get better. I don’t think anybody can totally master the sport. You’re constantly learning and getting better, and that’s what we’ve got to do and continue to coach that.”
That’s a non-answer, so let’s try a second question:
Was there a natural mesh with Nick Foles that doesn’t exist with Carson Wentz?
“Well, I think you’re talking about two different guys, obviously, two different personalities. Two guys that approach the game a little bit differently. You tailor it to their strengths and that was one of the things that I had to do with Nick when he took over a few years ago, is find out what he liked. That’s what we do with Carson, even to today, and as we even in-game make decisions, continuing to have conversations on the sideline, with he and Press Taylor and myself, just ‘what do you like, what are you seeing, what would you like for me to call?’ Or if I’m not calling something, let me know; that way I can get it into the game. And both guys are different, and we understand that, and just want to make sure that Carson does feel comfortable with the game plan because quite honestly, the quarterbacks have input, right, just as Nick had input, and all the guys have input with what we’re doing each week.”
We beat this topic to death when Foles was still here. It’s true that he was a better fit for the RPO game, and he had a better understanding with Alshon Jeffery on the field when it came to those 50/50 and back shoulder throws. Still, the reason it’s hard to put much stock in the “Foles is better for Doug” narrative is because Wentz was playing at a MVP-level under Pederson back in 2017, before he got hurt. This topic I think is somewhat overrated.
But what about missing routine throws, like the one he sailed into the flat on Sunday? Is there anything more to those?
“Just missing. I guess you can point to a lot of different things: Missing OTAs, not having all the necessary maybe reps during training camp, missing preseason games, whatever it might be, the timing of things that we do in the passing game and just missing these throws. They are throws that he typically would throw, and it’s a little bit, too, on the receivers. Sometimes the receivers need to make the catch as well. So it’s things that we have to continue to work.”
Is preparation – or lack thereof – an excuse? Les Bowen asked if Doug would have done anything differently, in hindsight, to prepare for the season under the wonky COVID-19 restrictions:
“I think we had a set of rules and protocols that we had and guidelines to go by, so many hours on the field, so many hours in the building and quite frankly, with a lot of new pieces, particularly in the skill position, with Jalen (Reagor) and John Hightower, even J.J. (Arcega-Whiteside), getting J.J. back out there, and Greg Ward, relatively new guys, you’re talking about two and a half to three weeks of actual, full-speed timing throws.
I don’t care who you are throwing to. I don’t care who the receivers are. Two and a half weeks to prepare for your first real game; it’s not enough time. It’s not enough time, and it’s a constant work-in-progress and we continue to work, and I continue to — I know you guys don’t see it because you’re not at practice much, but I continue to kind of restructure practice a little bit so we can spend more time during practice getting these throws and getting — detailing the fundamentals of the route and the details of the route.”
The thing that bothers me about this, and should bother you, is that this is year number five of Wentz, Pederson, and Jim Schwartz, too. All three rival NFC East teams are breaking in new coaches and coordinators, while EVERY NFL team was under the same COVID restrictions, so while the bemoaning might be valid, it’s not unique to the Eagles. Not one of the 32 NFL coaches had what they would describe as an adequate preseason.
Finally, there was this:
Q. How much input do you get from the front office when it comes to playing QB Jalen Hurts and do you feel any urgency or any pressure to incorporate him into the offense because he was a second round pick? (Rob Maaddi)
COACH PEDERSON: No and no.
Of course he’s going to say no, but the front office should feel the pressure, which unfortunately trickles down to the coach. Through two weeks, Jalen Reagor, Jalen Hurts, and Davion Taylor have contributed very little on the field of play.
Here’s the full video for you:
Watch live as Head Coach Doug Pederson speaks with the media. https://t.co/AJZOm6SGOU
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) September 21, 2020